Friday, December 23, 2011

Silent Night, Holy Night

Just finished an arrangement for "Silent Night". My first arrangement, ever, and it sounds more or less quite awful. Not only that, I tried a new miking position that's closer, and makes the sax sound so damned thin. Maybe I should EQ the sax - if I knew how ;-) Last month's try on Fly Me To The Moon had a really nice tone, and that was done with the mic a fair distance away. GAH! :D

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Harmonica and sax :3

We had a secret santa on our show, and my secret santa gave me this harmonica above! I don't know that much about harmonicas - apart from what they sound like - and some research proved it to be a very capable - and inexpensive - instrument indeed.

For a start, what I received was a 10 hole diatonic harmonic keyed in C. What's interesting is how the notes are produced - not only by blowing into the harmonica, but also from drawing air through it. I'm guessing mine is based on the standard Richter Tuning. Many props to my secret santa, that made my day :)

In other news, today was the last day of my sax class, for the year anyways, and we covered *alot* of topics, vibrato, tremolo, improving the articulation on the upper register, subtoning, and modes. Whew.

Articulation didn't take too long as I'd already mentioned to my teacher last month that I was having trouble articulating it, and we'd look at it the next lesson (i.e. today). In the mean time though, I worked on improving my embouchure - which seemed fruitless - but changing it - more lip out - seemed to do the trick, and my teacher agrees. Not only did it allowed me to articulate the upper register, it also added more harmonics to the high notes. Win.

Subtoning is new for me, so more things to practice, and modes, something I was never interested in but since I am learning about basses (mmmm double bass) and walking bass lines, that came up and had me throughly confused. Thankfully my teacher cleared up my misgivings quickly. Can't wait to get started on my arrangement now.


Friday, December 16, 2011

HunbleBundle - Indie games - for all platforms!

Stumbled upon The Humble Indie Bundle a few days ago and have been gaming the past few nights. Oh joy! The main game of this bundle I was after is Gratuitous Space Battles, aka GSB. Reminds me visually of Master Of Orion 2, so picked it up hoping the gameplay would be similar.

Yes, and no. It's basically MOO's fighting and ship building section, in continuous waves. No building ships, no worries about space amoeba, just design ships, hit deploy and watch your fleet take on the cpu's fleet :D

Found a nice tactic of tanking with heavily shielded ships up from, with a second line of ships with just missiles. Shreds enemies reaal fast. What's curious, is that the *basic* weapons seemed to do the best damage *shrugs*. At the core, it is still a scissors-paper-stone kind of game.

Towards the end, I didn't even bother to deploy small ships, just the main cruisers in the pattern above, or for the giggles, a whole menagerie of the middle sized space ships armed with nothing but missiles and torpedos.

Apart from that, other games I tried were the a platformer and shump, Cave Boy+ and Jamestown. Jamestown refused to run on linux - spent a good hour browsing forums to no luck. Luckily, my "audio production machine" - a mac - runs the mac ports perfectly. Download, click, install, game on! No fussing about with dependencies or segfaults, gah.

Both games are superb, and they take me back to my youth, with Cave Boy's old school pixel art and fm sounds. Jamestown is a great shooter, graphics are amazing, and alot of attention to detail was paid on the sprites. The music is superb, with great cut scenes as well.

I've mostly stopped gaming as I know I get tunnel visioned to complete the game, and with games like FF XIII clocking in at more than 50 hours of game time, it's not a way I wish to spend my time.

These smaller games don't seem to suck me in that much, especially with smups like Jamestown that don't seem to have any leveling system in place - easy to just hop on and get distracted for an hour or two.

Oh well back to more serious stuff.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Audio Synthesis in Houdini

I purchased Logic Studio recently for my recording and mixing needs, and came across the synthesizers in it, learned alot about alot (ok two) of them and have fallen in love with the concept of synthesis, be it subtractive synthesization, FM and what have you. I've learnt a bit of this in school (yay engineering) applied to linear systems, and have some experience with RF modulation, but never for audio synthesis like this.

The concept of creating an initial tone, which is then filtered and passed through an envelope generator to give us a sense of articulation, sustain and delay is just... wow. I'll never listen to electronic music the same way again.

Having been doing various tutorials with Logic's ES2 synthesizer, which is a mainly a subtractive synthesizer. Whipped up this little test in Houdini's chops for giggles.

It's exactly as described above. My base tone is a Triangle wave, which seems to give a very pure tone with some harmonics. A square wave is then generated and passed to the trigger chop, which generates envelopes. (The envelope controls are surprisingly, a step ahead of the ES2's controls, including features such as interpolation type, delay *hold* length, among many others).

CHOPs node layout

Multiplying the envelope train against the triangle wave gives a psuedo wind instrument sound.

I have a copy of Andrew Lowell's Simultaneous Music, Animation, and Sound with Houdini - from years back that I did not finish. Looks like it's time to figure out how I can link my music to houdini :)

Monday, December 12, 2011

Ignore Everybody

Came across this website, of all places, a forum discussing the merits of different audio compressors, i.e. VCA vs Opto vs FET vs etc etc

It's a very pleasant read, and I hope to incorporate a few more ideas into what I do in my free time.

The bottom line I read from the extract is:

Choose to live your life the way you think is best for you. No one else knows what is the best for you.

Chase your dreams, no matter how small. Don't copy*, be original even though the path may be lonely and un-travelled.

Work hard. This brings up the 10,000 hour rule, and the question of talent vs hard work. I'm sort of in-the-middle of the rule. I think talent is important, but more importantly, I think is the desire, the drive, and the (shudder) "passion" for what you love. Talent (which I wish I have) plus drive and dedication means an uber vfx td, imo. Which I am not. Yet. :P

Challenges. Everyone has their own set of issues with which to conquer. I think I have a fair number of those, like my inability to go socialize. I am sooo sad here, and it is what I believe to be a BIG challenge to tackle.

* I some what disagree with the no-copy idea. As stated in posts before, copying is a very good way to develop skills, not to exist as a copy. Skills learnt can be applied in so many ways (e.g. I use alot of wedding photography style flash, BUT I've never shot a wedding ;-) ) - once again, it brings up Everything Is A Remix.

This quote from the URL easily summarized the path I've chosen to walk.

"The price of being a sheep is boredom. The price of being a wolf is loneliness. Choose one or the other with great care."

No regrets. Carpe Diem.

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Parallism of Learning II

Another aspect of learning is your tools, or rather, learning the nuances of our tools, before we can actually perform. In the case of photography, it's learning about just how to operate the camera, from basic stuff to like filenames, to more advanced stuff like setting up dynamic AF, tweaking the exposure meter, AF tracking time etc.

Things like this take time and experimentation, and only experience gives you the knowledge when to use it e.g. If I have time, I will use a single point AF combined with the AF confirmation light, if it's a fast moving street type situation I might go the hyper focused route, quick busy situations may require the dynamic af, giving the focus more chance to be "in focus".

Not to mention the exposure meter, no reflective meter is that good, and after years working with the camera, I instinctively know when to increase/decrease my compensation for the exposure I need - without checking the histogram to know I'm in the correct ballpark - comes with experience and many, many thousands of deleted frames.

Even though cameras are built to perform similar functions, I choose mine because it is the most intuitive to me, and it is only after years of use on the same camera that I can quickly adapt to the situation.

Similarly for the saxophone. Unlike cameras, they don't come with instruction manuals (ok it does come with a fingering chart), and it takes years to learn the nuances of the instrument. For example, my Middle D plays very sharp - a characteristic found (supposedly) in almost every saxophone.

Adjusting your embouchure (shape of mouth, in layperson terms) supposedly is the way to fix this, but not on my sax - it drops to the octave below. I need to play it with another key (high D) pressed down, just to get it on pitch. That said, I've noticed that my middle D intonation is actually getting better, so much so that with high D pressed, I actually go flatter......

Apart from variables like these, we've got the favourite part every saxophone player tends to fiddle with at times - mouthpieces, and their ilk, the ligature and reed. I've swapped a few mouthpieces in my short span of playing the saxophone, and everytime I tried on a new mouthpiece, I have to relearn how to play the piece. With my current piece, the Vandoren V5 A27, I think I've had it for at least 4, 5 months, and I'm still learning subtle nuances about it. How to hit harmonics, where to put the jaw, breath pressure for different notes.

Bottom line is, unless there is something majorly wrong or holding you back, equipment nowadays is more than suitable for most of us. Ok well more than suitable for me. No plans to change the saxophone (although I am still drooling for a vintage finish keilwerth sx90r) - and definitely not for the camera. Heck, ever since I got bitten by this music bug, the camera's usage has dropped significantly, only bring it out once a month or so.

Let's see how long it takes before I buy a new sax or mouthpiece :3

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Parallelisms of learning

Today I realized how similar the path I took with the saxophone versus photography. In terms of learning, I approached them similarly, but one of self taught (photography) versus the saxophone, which I had the guidance of a really good teacher.

First, is learning from the masters.
One underlying topic my sax teacher has pushed is transcribing (I am pretty sure I wrote this in another post but whatever) - by doing so not only do we train our ear, we also learn the nuances of how the pros play, how they articulate to give a certain feel, it's like parker vs pepper vs desmond. Learn from the masters, and incorporate them into one's playing.

Exactly like what Everything is a Remix is trying to get across.

On the flip side for photography, I do the same, analyzing how the photographers I respect do their photography - this is exactly what I've seen mentioned in the many books I've read. But I only took to this several years ago. And indeed, it seemed like my photography skills improved quite rapidly after that.

So bottom line, copy. Devour everything you enjoy, find out how they do it, copy copy copy. And like the borg, become something greater than the sum of the parts.

or not.


Sunday, December 04, 2011

One year of sax...

And what a year it has been. The good, the bad, the ups and downs, the time wasted, things learnt. Looking forward to the future.

In more positive note *ahem* this is also my first outing with Logic Pro 9 :3 I finally bit the bullet and bought a whole slew of software and books for my xmas break. So far, Logic seems like a pretty good step up from garageband - it allows really basic stuff, for example, recording from mic 2 only (garageband only allows mic1, or mic 1 and 2 on the same track)

There is also a proper mixer, with peak levels display which is great to know when I'm clipping. Still very new to the package though, just figured out enough how to record, add reverb and export :) Logic studio comes with Space Designer, a convolution reverb that I'm just getting my feet wet with. The video above has the "Jazz Vocal Room" reverb engaged. Seems nice, but I need to do more tests to compared it against the AU Matrix Reverb, which is very nice in its own right.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Out with the old...

Today actually marks the end of NaNoWriMo, and I did not make it close to the finish point at all (10k/50k). On the flip side, in the brief time I did spend on it, I learnt a little bit about writing, that I do enjoy writing but it's not something I'm "passionate" about (observe the double quotes, I'm not a fan of the word passionate).

Also, I finally wrote down what has been going on in my mind for years, which is very nice.

I will probably finish the story down the line when I keep figuring things out. In the mean time, I have other pursuits that I do enjoy spending time on.

This month has been quite downhill, for out-of-work things, but they seem to have calmed down, let's see what the next month brings.

Saturday, November 26, 2011


A few months ago, I wrote a small python script to aid my ear training. Things that happened today and last night made me re-evaluate the point of such a script.

Firstly, I finished last night, an introductory book on music theory, and for some reason, my teacher spoke again about transcribing music to observe the nuances of recorded performances.

In essence, transcribing is not just identifying notes - it is much more, such as figuring out the jumps between notes by ear, as well as picking out how individual artists play a certain piece - for example, pick a jazz standard, and observe how the different greats play it.

Both the book and my teacher spoke at length about this, so I've now started transcribing stuff. Gonna be challenging :) And I'm moving on to the next book as well.


I just got informed today that Michael Garrick has passed away >.> Conversed with the gent a few times about the winter jazz course. Why? :(

Once again, feeling like numb and all. Sigh.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

The Old Rugged Cross

This is my 3rd take of "The Old Rugged Cross". Googled for bereavement songs and this was one that came up.

I'm going to sound like a dick, but fact is, this is probably a form of closure more for myself than anything else.

I dedicate this piece, to those who have left us and are forging a new world ahead of us. You are all missed.

What is life?

So, one of my classmates departed this morning. I'm feeling very numb and empty inside. Even though we were not at all close, nearly 4 years of studying together still forms certain bonds of camaraderie. Sad to say apart from yearly new year greetings, we hardly spoke.

RIP mate, I am certain you are missed.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

A* Path Finding in C++

So, I got curious this weekend and decided to code up an implementation of the A* Pathfinding Algorithm.

A nice ZIP file can be found here with the source code.

I followed the description found at Policy Almanac and it seemed to work perfectly. The main problems I had implementing the code were mostly race conditions (pain. in. the. rear. >.>) and making sure I didn't go over the bounds for my 2d array (segfaults! boo!).

Here's some example runs:




^^ Does not seem so optimal - at the start it should go directly to the right, instead of going down.


Heh, that was fun.

EDIT: It seems like I did not maintain a priorityQ for the lowest cost F for open nodes, darn.....
EDIT 2: Which doesn't make a difference since I'm only picking the lowest F for iterating on. The only issue is, efficiency. Or lack of, thereof :)

Sunday, November 06, 2011

Saxophone Log, Life, Blah

Another month, another video. It's coming up to my one year anniversary soon, I'll be making a special video for that.

Most of today has been spent attempting to write for NaNoWriMo, only got 6k this week, from a target of 10k. Not good, but I'll see how it goes :)

Distant Worlds: Music of Final Fantasy

This evening, I was at the Royal Albert Hall attending a concert by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, featuring music from Final Fantasy. This concert is titled: Distant Worlds.
An enjoyable evening is an understatement. Listening to a live orchestra playing the video game music I grew up with beings back fond memories and times I wish I could return to.
There were many highlights of the day, for example the Opera House song in Final Fantasy 3 (USA) was done with 3 opera singers, each playing the roles of Maria, Draco and Ralse.

For the encore, they did the full set of One Winged Angel, with Nobou Uematsu himself singing part of the chorus (the "sephiroth") part. I think the crowd was going wild here.
Another momentous favorite of mine, "Eyes On Me", was performed with a vocalist, Susan Calloway. Another uber awesome song was Kefka's theme song, Dancing Mad. And it was performed with a proper pipe organ, that is seemingly built into the concert hall!

It is amazing, and this time next year I hope to attend it again, but this time with a proper seating. I only heard about this about a month ago, and by luck the "chior" seats were available about then. If not, the tickets are sold about a year in advance, and are basically sold out on the spot.

This only gives me further inspiration to push my musical adventures. Onwards!!!

Friday, November 04, 2011

Legere Signature - New packaging?

A bit over the top for a reed, I'd rather save a bit of £££ on the packaging to get it cheaper... plays similarly to my current reed.

Saturday, October 29, 2011


NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month, and runs for the full month of November. The goal is to write a 50,000 novel in the month of november.

I'll be joining in this year, and hope to finish this story I've had floating in my head for years. Well the first part anyways. Already got the characters laid out, major plot points laid it, let November 1st arrive....

And now back to C++ and sax :)

Saturday, October 22, 2011

New Saxophone Mouthpiece!

Aaaaand either a) I've been sent a wrong piece else b) it will be going on ebay soon :3 This is a handmade, custom piece that I just got on Tuesday, but I've been having brain crunching days at work, which leaves me too mentally exhausted to do more.

Today though, I spent a fair bit of time with this new piece, and after much comparison with the V5, decided it was not for me. Hopefully I was sent a wrong piece, and I do want to use a custom built piece (yes I am vain). This piece plays very similar to the Vandoren V16, so a meyer styled piece. The low to mid register is absolutely delicious - low Bb to high E play beautifully extremely easily, and this mouthpiece actually fixes my middle D intonation issues! Unbelievable.

Downsides include a wildy sharp palm key notes, and the higher notes feel very thin. This is exactly what I felt with the V16, so it's basically a souped up V16.

I still decided on the V5 for the same reasons as before: The tone is good enough for what I want, all register play with good intonation - middle D can be fixed by adding the palm D key - and the tone feel nice and thick even at the palm keys.

This is the basis of what I need - an instrument that I do not need to fight. Reasonable intonation, and evenness of tone. I do not need to achieve "Saxophonist X's sound" etc etc. I sound like me and I'm bloody pleased with it.

One positive aspect came out of this. Because the new piece has a slightly wider tip opening, I had to put in my Legere Signature #2.25s, else I would wear out my embouchure in minutes.

Recordings show that the low register plays very evenly (and easily), unlike the V5 which I tend to need more puff to get the low notes to speak - and this causes the low notes to sound louder and more pronounced compared to the higher low register notes. On a whim, I switched the #2.25s on the V5, and wow, now the low notes play way easier (still not as easy as the new mouthpiece but) and the palm keys seem to play easier.

Need a bit more practice see if there are any downsides to this switch, but yeah, I was quite surprised how going down a 1/4 strength makes such a large improvement.

EDIT: To be sold ;-)

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Saxophone Weekend with Andy Scott

 Architecture beside St Lawrence's Church.

Spent the weekend in beautiful Winchester attending a saxophone workshop with Andy Scott organized by Sarah Heard. I think the workshop was really well organized, with neatly timed sessions with short breaks inbetween.

 Buddy's, an American Diner just off the high street.

The group that attended seemed to range from 11 year olds to retirees; some probably have had musical background for decades, and others were just a year or more in.
Part of Winchester Cathedral

The focus seemed to be on ensemble playing as well as improvisation. We were introduced to a medly of tunes with funky beats to a laid back african piece. Some pieces had spaces for solos, and I had a great time doing with my turn at improvisation.

 Evening recital.

We ended the 2nd day, with a performance for friends and family. Playing with an ensemble is really eye opening and good fun.

Am currently pooped as I went back to the office to check on simulations :P

Sunday, October 09, 2011

Safety Straps for sax?

So after yesterday's snafu, it got me thinking. Are there ways to prevent what happened yesterday? And the answer came up - SAFETY STRAPS!

Just a velcro strap that goes through the back of the case that loops around the bell or some part of the stack. Why isn't this standard in saxophone cases?


Saturday, October 08, 2011

Broke my sax :-/

So this morning as I was leaving for my saxophone class I picked up my case and... the sax dropped out >.> Did not zip it up after packing it last night, and I broke the screw that tightens the crook. Thankfully the sax seems to work fine, though I had difficulty playing low notes softly. Teacher checked it out and seemed fine.

Seems like that wasn't the only thing damaged, my Vandoren M/O ligature may be otherwise bent as well >.> Switching over to my cloth ligature proved to be the case as I got back all my low notes. Gah. Hopefully I can get this fixed in time - I've got a two day saxophone course next weekend. Perfect timing, this >.>

Friday, October 07, 2011

Long Live Play? Huh?

"When they tell your story, what will they say?"

Few words, and they inspire one to be more than they are.

Taken in context of the above commercial though, I feel they fall flat.

For some reason that will take awhile for me to fully externalize (hey I'm an introvert - cut me slack) - the moment they started to cheer for "Michael", who is probably the gamer in question, one word came to my mind.


Great, so we're celebrating the gamer. The person who saved the world over and over again, won WW2, took down hades, destroyed sephiroth, saved the princess blah de blah. Erm.

We did not. We did it in a GAME. What happened, was not real. The only thing real, was you spent time, in a fantasy setting, living your fantasy. There is something happening in real life called.... real life.

Granted, my point of view, i.e. data point of ONE, hardly reflects the masses. Do I game? Sure I do. Not as a form of escapism though, it is purely a form of relaxation to allow my mind to connect the pieces together I've been working on. Not much different from going for a swim or a walk around the park, except that there is a very high chance that I get addicted to games. I know myself, hence the avoidance of owning a console myself (glares at the now-dead ylod PS3)

The point of this post? No point at all, apart from the fact the commercial rubs me the wrong way and I just wanted to emo about it. Seeing the $249 PS3 ad at the end was win. I shut the browser down. Sorry sony, want me to get another PS3? Buck up and give me FF7, in hd. With *all* the damned bugs.

With a bit more thinking, I think what truly irks me, is time. Or, the fact that time is probably the only resource that once used, cannot be recovered. Gaming, eats up time. No doubts about it. Is it a skill that once learned, can enhance our daily lives? I really doubt it. For example, I have completed FF7 like 3 times. The first run was about 17 odd hours; the next two runs I tried to do all the side quests, get the gold chocobo etc (till date, I have not killed the Emerald or Ruby Weapon. Insert sadface.) - easily 50 hours if not more, resetting the game just to get a bloody black chocobo for breeding. Seriously, what was i thinking?! Did I gain some skill in real life from breeding chocobos? (Side note: I still think chocobos are AWESOME and uber cuddly. Not as cuddly as wolves but I digress....)

I'm going to end this post now, as thinking about this just makes me more annoyed. I have stuff to do. In real life.

EDIT: I thought an answer to the question: "They'd say you spent your entire life playing games!" Wow! Compared to say, "He spent his life looking after dementia patients".... I really much prefer to have mine as "he spent his life learning stuff and not doing anything" to that, seriously.

Thursday, October 06, 2011

SM57 VS Heil PR31BW

I mentioned to my teacher about the Heil PR31 I got and he requested an A/B test with the SM57. Here are some results.

First, the SM57 gives a weaker signal, as seen in audacity. Both were recorded at +60dB gain on my Onyx Blackjack, and the Heil comes in just 0.7dB below 0dB.

Top track is the Heil PR31, bottom is the SM57.

I wonder if there is something up with my SM57 as it does seem quite low output. I was mic'ing about 10, perhaps 12 inches away from the sax, aimed at the middle of the upper stack, straight on.

Here are some full clips, Doxy is more jazzy, whilst Endless Night is more for evaluating a slower legato piece.

Heil PR31 vs SM57 by Gallen

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

DIY Ribbon Mic?

Little side project I'm working on, a diy ribbon microphone. The parts required are really bog simple, magnets, aluminum foil and a transformer. The foil is in the micron scale though.... difficult to source. But here's the magnets, N42 neodymium.

For a start I'll be designing the housing for a short ribbon length, about 1 inch, vs the longer lengths commercially available.

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Bari Reed - pretty impressive!

So I'd a go with the Bari Plastic reed today and it's actually quite good! First thing I noticed is how easy it is to blow, from bottom Bb to high F#, it seriously was effortless. Even more amazingly, I was able to get middle D in tune, without pushing the mouthpiece all the way into the cork. Hmm.

It is much brighter than the Legere Signature though, and has a very very tiny touch of buzziness to the sound. The most stand out feature though, is the volume. It is LOUD, easily giving me 3dB or more in terms of volume. The setting where the legeres were peaking about 2dB below 0dB at ff, the Bari was already peaking when I was blowing an mf. On the flip side, playing soft was quite challenging. I felt the reed presented a wider dynamic range, and it could take alot of air without choking up. This free blowing characteristic has a downside, some longer passages I usually finish with a bit of reserve on my Legere, I ran out of breath very much faster on the Bari. Mrrr.

All in all, in terms of synthetic reeds, I'm still keeping the Legere at number 1, with the Bari a very close second. Here's my personal chart of the reeds I've tried, keep in mind that I'm playing for less than a year, and the following is my experience on a Hanson SA5 on a Vandoren V5 A27

Characteristic/Reed Legere Signature Bari Plastic Fibracell Hahn Synthetic
Body/Core *** ** ** *
Buziness * ***
Brightness * ** * ***
Volume * *** * *
Free Blowing * *** * **
Intonation ** *** ** *** (with reservations)
Ease of Articulation * *** * ***
Price * *** ** **
Looks like a cane reed ***

Intonation: While the Hahn could achieve reasonably good intonation over the range, even the pesky middle d, playing with it felt weird to the mouth and ears... Can't fully explain it.

Buzziness: Playing the Hahn on the V5 reminds me of playing, say, the Legere on a Lebayle Studio mouthpiece - it gives a very contemporary edge to the sound.

Bari Plastic Reed

Bought a new Legere Signature #2.5 and at the same time, got a Bari Plastic Reed. Hmm. First impressions are.... it feels like it's made of the same plastic you'd find on disposable cutlery :D

Can't wait to give it a blow. My teacher used to play on these so, hopefully they are a viable choice. One other reed I'd like to try is Harry Hartman's Fiberreed, however those are quite ouch inducing, so perhaps in a month or two. The Legere Signature has been my favourite so far, off all the reeds I've used, it has the most body and not too bright.

Sunday, October 02, 2011

Saxophone Log October 2011 (or Heil PR31 rules)

Finally got down and dirty with the Heil PR31, it is *awesome*.

Signal chain is straightforward, Heil PR 31 -> Onyx Blackjack @55dB gain -> garageband. I only put a bit of plate reverb (a preset on the AU Matrix Reverb on OSX) on the saxophone track in the mix. (As much as I'd like to EQ the sax... er... I have no idea how to use eq :P)

Lovely lovely piece of kit, would definitely recommend it for alto saxophones. I've put in the files on soundcloud as well, and there is a raw version up there as well.

Saxophone Log: October 2011 by Gallen Saxophone Log: October 2011 raw heil pr31 by Gallen

Saturday, October 01, 2011

Heil PR31 BW

So, it's payday and I got myself a new toy..... a Heil PR31 BW dynamic mic. I think the most recommended suggestion to record the Alto Saxophone seems to be the Sennheiser, MD421, MD441, Royer 121 (and sometimes... AKG C12?!) - all of which tend to be... pricey. (case in point, the AKG C12 runs more than £3k)

Nice box :D

The box is very utilitarian - I like it! A simple instruction manual, the mic and its clamp. The instruction manual indicates that this mic has a Super Cardioid polar pattern. Not sure what's with the massive side grills, but the mic's an end fire mic, and it comes with instructions as well as text printed on the mic casing to indicate where it picks up sound from.

The clamp does not come with an adaptor for the smaller threadsize used in the UK, but the PR31 does fit into the SM57's mic mount. Barely.

It is ridiculously small. The Heil PR 31 BW uses a similar element to the PR 30 (that I really would prefer - just for the fact it has a RED grill :D). However, the PR30 is somewhat larger and would not fit properly in the Studio Projects Reflexion Filter. This will... but would there be a point to using the reflexion filter with a dynamic, I wonder.

Since this is a super cardioid - it does pick up an attenuated amount of sound from behind the mic. The reflexion filter _may_ help in this case.

And here it is besides my Shure SM57. As mentioned, ridiculously small, the size of a baby's milk bottle. Initial tests seem to be good, and I'll be doing some recordings over the weekend to give it a more through run down.

Houdini + Arduino + ADXL335

Spent this week re-visiting an old project - getting my arduino interfaced with an ADXL335, then writing the python required to get houdini talking :)

Fun stuff, next, some audio engineering :-)

Project files are in this odforce thread.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Python for Alto Saxophone: Intonation, Transcription.

Two things (out of the many) I hope to work on my saxophone, is to transcribe music, so that I can re-arrange it, as well as improve on my intonation. The following script is to aid me in this endevour:

from wave import open as waveOpen
from ossaudiodev import open as ossOpen
import sys, tty, termios
import random

ver = "1.1"

def playTone(myToneFile):
	s = waveOpen(myToneFile,'rb')
	(nc,sw,fr,nf,comptype, compname) = s.getparams( )
	dsp = ossOpen('/dev/dsp','w')
  		from ossaudiodev import AFMT_S16_NE
	except ImportError:
 		if byteorder == "little":
 	   		AFMT_S16_NE = ossaudiodev.AFMT_S16_LE
  			AFMT_S16_NE = ossaudiodev.AFMT_S16_BE
	dsp.setparameters(AFMT_S16_NE, nc, fr)
	data = s.readframes(nf)

def _getch():
        fd = sys.stdin.fileno()
        old_settings = termios.tcgetattr(fd)
            ch =
            termios.tcsetattr(fd, termios.TCSADRAIN, old_settings)
        return ch

def getNextRand(currentRand, randRangeMax):
	newRand = random.randrange(0,randRangeMax)
	while (newRand == currentRand):
		newRand = random.randrange(0,randRangeMax)
	return newRand

# Setup dictionary of tones here
# Full range of tones:

fullRange = (
("Low Bb", "low_Bb.wav"),
("Low B", "low_B.wav"),
("Low C", "low_C.wav"),
("Low C#", "low_C#.wav"),
("Low D", "low_D.wav"),
("Low D#", "low_D#.wav"),
("Low E", "low_E.wav"),
("Low F", "low_F.wav"),
("Low F#", "low_F#.wav"),
("Low G", "low_G.wav"),
("Low G#", "low_G#.wav"),
("Low A", "low_A.wav"),
("Low A#", "low_A#.wav"),
("Middle B", "middle_B.wav"),
("Middle C", "middle_C.wav"),
("Middle C#", "middle_C#.wav"),
("Middle D", "middle_D.wav"),
("Middle D#", "middle_D#.wav"),
("Middle E", "middle_E.wav"),
("Middle F", "middle_F.wav"),
("Middle F#", "middle_F#.wav"),
("Middle G", "middle_G.wav"),
("Middle G#", "middle_G#.wav"),
("Middle A", "middle_A.wav"),
("Middle A#", "middle_A#.wav"),
("High B", "high_B.wav"),
("High C", "high_C.wav"),
("High C#", "high_C#.wav"),
("High D", "high_D.wav"),
("High D#", "high_D#.wav"),
("High E", "high_E.wav"),
("High F", "high_F.wav"),
("High F#", "high_F#.wav"))

middleRange = fullRange[7:21]
lowMiddleRange = fullRange[0:21]

soundDictionary = middleRange

print "Intonation/Transcription Ear Developer " + ver
print "\nSpace to play tone, 0 for answer, Enter for next tone, q to quit"

kbValue = ord(_getch())
# set a random note at start


currentRand = random.randrange(0,len(soundDictionary))

currentSound = soundDictionary[currentRand-1]

while 1:
	if kbValue == 32:
		print "Playing tone." 
	elif kbValue == 13:
		currentRand = getNextRand(currentRand, len(soundDictionary))
		currentSound = soundDictionary[currentRand-1]
		print "Switched to another tone." 
	elif kbValue == 48:
		print "The answer is: " + currentSound[0]
	elif kbValue == 113:

	kbValue = ord(_getch())

So basically what it does is very simple, play back a specific sound sample, which I will try to use my ears and saxophone to match. In essence this will achieve two things.

First, figuring out a particular note will aid recognition of the particular note, and that will aid transcription. Secondly, with the playback, assuming I can figure out the note, if I can harmonize with the note should help with my intonation.

Hope it works :)

Edit: 27th September 2011
After some real world use, I found that randrange kept giving very close values for the small range I'm using, so additional code was used to ensure the previous tone would not be the next one as well.

Squeeks, figured

Figured out why I was squeeking so bad - it was a bad reed.

That's sad, as this Legere Signature #2.5 is a new one I bought just 2 months ago. The other legeres I got did not seem to exhibit this problem, nor other reeds. Oddly enough, I got this new reed because my old reed had developed a crack. Playing the cracked reed on the V5 did not have the squeeks, but it did have an extra buzz to its sound.

Looks like next month I'll be getting a new Signature... wonder what happened to this one to cause it to fail, no drops or bumps :-/

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Hate reeds and mouthpieces! GAH!

The past few days I've been testing out various combinations of reeds, ligatures and ligature positions in order to figure out why I'm squeaking on my V5 A27. And today, I had a go with a Hahn #2.5. It did not squeak at all, although oddly it had an unexpected side effect of being quite flat? Very obvious when doing my mouthpiece exercises.

On the usual position on the crook, the mouthpiece played very very flat, like 40+ cents flat, I'd never seen that before! Pushing in the mouthpiece till the very edge of the cork seemingly fixed it, and a positive side effect is that middle d is now _only_ 20 cents sharp! Wow!

Would the Hahn be my cure?

I decided to try other synthetics. Fibracell. Other legeres.

Not. A. Squeak.


Sunday, September 18, 2011

[ Houdini Cookoff ] Complete!

FINALLY! IT IS DONE! Oh my goodness.

I think this mini project, whilst cut short had me learn a lot of news things - controlling fluids, figuring out how to composite in COPs, bits on shaders - lots lots.

Not going to do this for a looong while, this sucked up a fair amount of free time, now I can get back to the other stuff I want to learn, music theory, composition, audio engineering, acoustics, python, arduino, photography er.... yeah I have no life :D

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

[ Houdini Cookoff ] 17

Started on rendering the various parts. Can I get this done by this weekend? :D

Dynamics vs Condensers: Microphones

Yesterday, I received some new toys in the mail, a SE Electronics X1 condenser mic, and a Project Studio Reflexion Filter. There was a really good bundle from dv247, that included a metal pop filter, and I really wanted to a) try out condenser mics and b) improve my recordings by improving my room's acoustics.

I only did vocal tests last night on the SM57 (plus Fethead) and the X1, and I can't really say which is better. Subjectively, I actually prefer the SM57!

This evening, I did some quick tests after my saxophone practice - 2 songs, one run on each mic. After getting the levels up to 0db (I'd set the gain on my pres so that I'd only need 0.9 - 1db gain boost in Audacity) and comparing both mics......

I honestly could not tell which was the SM57 and which was the X1.

More testing will be done this weekend.

In addition, the Reflexion Filter may be a dud buy. Not because it does not work, but it may be a possibility that my room is actually quite dead, sonically! Clapping in my room I hardly hear any reflections, similarly with my saxophone. I do notice that there actually are reflections coming in from the small passageway to the bathroom, seemingly sorted by draping some clothes over the door. Buh.

I also did some vocal tests last night on the X1 with and without the reflexion filter.... can't really tell the difference at all. Maybe I need to develop my ears further. Truly, I did not hear any room reflections without the filter.

On issue I encountered with the reflection filter is using the Fethead with it and the SM57 - the extended length of the mic + amp, fitted with the xlr cable at the end actually causes the mic capsule to protrude significantly from the filter's dead zone. Not that I could tell really, thanks to the room's deadness.

Dud buy? Hopefully not.

[ Houdini Cookoff ] 15

Still plodding along, and here's what I've got so far, a ripple simulation that represents the interaction of the milk being poured. The mesh will only be used to generate a reflection pass as the diffuse contribution will be from the volume simulation.

The final comp will perhaps be another second or two longer, just long enough to fade out. Will definitely not be putting the spoon interaction et all in - many other projects demanding my attention, and I haven't been able to concentrate on my music theory since this project started!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

All in the mind?

Decided to spend _some_ of the day not cooped up at home, and to spare the neighbours my un-wholesome sound frequencies, decide to practice at (or under) Primrose Hill Bridge. It's about an hour's walk from where I live, beautiful weather today, sun, with a good breeze, and not humid. Had good fun for two hours, but next time I go, I'll be sure to bring some clips, the wind is strong under the bridge, and had my scores flapping away twice!

Still on the V5 A27, still loving the piece. That said, there is an issue of notes just jumping to the next register for no apparent reason? I did a quick shootout at home with the Optumum AL4 and V16 A6S, and indeed, both of these pieces did not exhibit this tendency. So whats up with that? Going to get my A27 down to a mouthpiece refacer to let them work their artistry on it next week - got class this saturday and I don't want to be without my A27 :)

That said, testing the other two pieces once again brought the sound qualities to the fore. I found it odd that the A27 has become the brightest piece, at least to my ear! And not in a bad way. The AL4 actually sounds bigger, fuller, but it still had that faraway kind of tone. The V16 on the other hand... felt too dark! Still very nice to play at the low register, but I was like.... er... meh.

Will be selling the V16 soon :)

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Fethead Inline Amplifier on Sax and Vocals

The TritonAudio Fethead is a tiny and quite affordable inline amplifier that sits between your microphone and preamp. In my case, I use the Shure SM57 connected to a Onyx Blackjack USB audio interface. The blackjack provides up to 60db of gain, which does sound quite clean even at 60db. (NB: I am a newbie at this).

However, when far miking my saxophone, the recorded audio levels are quite low. Enter the fethead - it uses phantom power, and provides about 20db of clean gain for dynamic mics.

Here's a few charts showing the recorded audio. The topmost sample will be the onyx at 60db gain with no fetheads, and the ones that follow below are with the onyx at various gain levels. Even at just 35, it gives a reasonably hot signal.

And here are some audio clips as well. Note that to hear the full effect of the fethead, you'd definitely need to be listening through a good set of speakers or headphones. I'm using AKG 240MKII studio headsets, and I've been told that listening to these clips on a good set of monitor speakers also show how the fethead fattens up the sound.

SaxFetheadGain35 by Gallen SaxNoFetheadNormalized by Gallen Vocal With Fethead by Gallen VocalNoFethead by Gallen

Thursday, September 08, 2011

[ Houdini Cookoff ] 14

No, I'm still alive. Still on the Making Tea exercise, but tackling it bit at a time - this is taking up waaay to much time and a bit more time intensive than I thought. So here I present, after a lot of tweaking, the tea being mixed with milk!

What I'm not too happy about is the stream of milk entering is already the light brown color - in the reference it still maintains its whitish aspect for abit. If I can get around, I'll do another fluid sim for the white spreading element I've observed.

If not, the next layer will be the reflection pass - this is basically the diffuse pass.

Sunday, September 04, 2011

Saxophone Log: September 2011

The usual every month. As mentioned in an earlier post, I'm playing with my new Vandoren V5 A27 mouthpiece. In addition, I have a bit of new bling - a Vandoren M/O Ligature.
And here's a little extra I bothered to record on video, the super mario bros theme, abridged, at 80bpm :)
Few other soundclips below as well :) Apart from just learning on my own, I'm looking to join a band or orchestra, already have two in London I'll be checking out. In addition, I'm working with a keyboardist to produce some music :3 We're working on an old 80s michael bolton song at the moment. Let's see how it goes :)

Aaaand back to the houdini cookoff :)

Friday, September 02, 2011

[ Houdini Cookoff ] 13

Implemented the smoke sim that will fill up the cup this fine evening. Took awhile to get a nice swirl action going, but yeah :)

Thursday, September 01, 2011


Every few days I load up google and search with terms like introversion, introverted etc. Had a new hit pop up:

I thought this description is much less dramatic than the usual link I toss around, Caring for your introvert.

The Quest for "Tone"

It is still very early days in my saxophone playing, and one thing I recently explored has been modifying how I sound via changing mouthpieces. For some reason, after trying out a multitude of pieces, I went "back to basics" and am currently using a classical piece, a Vandoren V5 A27 (yes I bought yet another one).

Veering off topic for a bit, as mentioned in a previous post, I'd picked up a Vandoren V16 A6S after doing lots of tests down at the sax shop. Playing the V16 for a bit still gave me the feeling that it was not as flexible* as I thought it was. The Vandoren Optimum AL4 has that flexibility - or perhaps it is all the harmonics - but I heard the tone as quite nasal. The V5 sorted that out, not nasal, brighter, more focused. On the flip side, the V5 bears similarity to the AL4 in that middle D took more effort to play resonantly - unlike the V16 that seemed to sort that out. Similarly, the lower register took more effort to play. The V16's lower and mid registers were effortless to play, notes just spoke! On the higher octave, the AL4 and V5 A27 had more body and fullness to them whilst I made the V16 very thin sounding.

Is this the sound concept I'm looking for? No... at this moment I must say I am not exactly sure what kind of sound concept I'm looking for. Why I went for the V5 is mainly how I hear the saxophone - I can't put it down in words, but it sounds like me. It's as if the V5 provided more projection, removed the nasal tone, but did not color the sound, and allowed me to come through. For now, I'm content, and can finally focus on playing, expressing oneself on the sax.

This brings up similarities between photography and the sax - the endless quest for "the lens". Will it give the smooth bokeh, the sharpness, the warmth? All these are valid points, but they do take time away from actual photography. A bit of a rant, I see too many "photographers" kitted out with the latest specs, and sometimes asking me why I'm using an old camera (2007), or why I'm actually using flash in broad daylight >.>

I feel really sad, that in this modern day where information can be found at a click of a mouse, people don't seem to use that capability to *learn*. There is so much out there on the web that just 10 years ago, non existent even in libraries. Few seem to realize that to develop a skill, it's not about buying the latest and greatest. Something even more expensive needs to be used to obtain these skills - time. Time to learn, time to practice, time to put the practice into action.

I think any art form revolves around woodshedding or practice. Endless practice.

And yet, practice just for the sake of practice, I find equally pointless. There have been many days I forced myself to do photography or hobby X - but there was no heart in it. Progress would be minimal. Another key factor, I'd like to think is drive. Passion? No. I don't think I have a "passion" for photography or the sax. Rather, I just enjoy them. For me I think my "passion" is the act of learning, accumulating new skills and gaining knowledge.

*flexible: As it the tone production feels locked down, or guided by the mouthpiece not me.

[ Houdini Cookoff ] 12

So here's tonight's WIP, got the solid milk in place. Next stage will be to emit smoke from it. Tomorrow!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Amsterdam, wow...

Morning at Hoek Van Holland

Well that was a whirlwind weekend - set off for Amsterdam Thursday evening via the Dutch Flyer, an overnight ferry service. Arriving bright an early at Hoek Van Holland, two transfers (Hoek Van Holland -> Rotterdam -> Amsterdam) saw me bright and early in Amsterdam. As per normal, I bought a map and wandered roughly in the direction of my accommodations. I had no help from google maps this time - bloody t-mobile didn't work.
"Yellow Bike"

I have been asked before, in fact the day before I left, aren't I scared to travel alone? That, or why not travel in groups as it makes economic sense (uh, no that makes NO sense to me at all as I make my own itinerary and enjoy my privacy).

Dutch Fries!

First, no I'm not afraid to travel alone, it's not like I'm going to a warzone or some far far away place where there is no help except via airlift. Second, going on a group tour is fun... for awhile. Then my introverted side kicks in and I want peace and quiet. 

Green Hill Zone

Itinerary wise, I did not visit any of the major attractions in the cities, for example the museums. I was planning to visit at least one, but the call of random city exploration calls. For example, I went to the eastern side of Amsterdam where I hardly saw people, much less tourists. Its there can one glimpse a view of cutting edge European architecture, as well as the last surviving windmill located inside Amsterdam. If I had a day or two more... maybe I'd visit. But the call of the wild (and maybe the zoo) is too strong.

Modern Architecture

I really enjoyed my time here, the level of service here is very high. One thing about Amsterdam though, it's that it is too much of a modern city at times, I had a tough time hunting down dutch restaurants, not to say authentic ones, among the sheer amount of choice from steak to sushi to chinese to greek and more. Perhaps a journey further inland would find more traditional outlooks and food choices.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

R-Strap revived!

Got updated hardware to replace the worn out connectors on the Rstrap! So glad there are UK stockist for the parts. It looks really good, and the locking carabiner makes for a much more secure lock around the ring on the camera.

Looks good, but it'll need to be field tested - and what better than a bank holiday weekend in Amsterdam :)

[ Houdini Cookoff ] 11

Aaaand here's the milk pour using geometry. Multiple set of curves were blended in order to get the motion; 3 were used to give the general motion and waviness; one curve was used to exaggerate the initial pour, and one more when the bottle is lifted up. Switching between these 3 sets of curves were manual blends, though I used chops to blend between the 3 curves that formed the bulk of the pour.

Seems to be going well, tomorrow I'll work on adapting yesterday's sim properly into the cup.

Monday, August 22, 2011

[ Houdini Cookoff ] 10

Finally got a simulation that I like going on. Initial tests with emitting smoke directly was utter fail - there was no way the smoke was going to go nicely hit the wall, sink, then rise up. A liquid sim was done first to provide a base for the smoke fluid to emit from. To get it to rise up, a simple emission of the heat into the temperature field ensured that it would hit the top.

Learnt a new setting on the Iso Offset SOP to convert a SDF volume (the density field from the liquid sim) into a smoke volume with the "Volume Sample" mode. So basically, SDF in, and nice clean smoke volume out. Win!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Thoughts on the Vandoren V16 A6S

Fluid simming and not in the mood to do anything more so I'm putting down some thoughts about the new mouthpiece and listening to music.

First, I start practice sessions with mouthpiece exercises. Some other terms include Buzzing the mouthpiece. Basically, playing the mouthpiece on its own. With the AL4, hitting the notes is relatively easier as I've been practicing these exercises for awhile. The V16, not so much. I can hit the correct pitches, but I can't hit it exactly, and needs to be corrected. Nothing a few months of practice can't sort out.

Intonation wise, this piece is totally different from my AL4. My main gripe with the AL4 is middle D, ah lovely middle d. The note well known for being stuffy, and out of intonation. On the AL4 and my Hanson SA5, I can get it down to maybe 30 cents sharp. Lipping down basically causes the note to go down an octave, even with the octave key pressed.

The V16 otoh does not share this peculiarity, and it is possible to bend the note so that it plays in tune. Note that I say possible to; getting it to stay at the "correct" pitch is nigh difficult, I was wavering all over the tuner :P

Pretty sure practice will fix this. For most of the range though, I felt it was easier to blow - perhaps this is due to the longer lay? I felt quite confident with the low notes, even down the Bb.

On the flip side, is intonation in the higher registers. Roughly above high F, I though I had difficulty getting the proper intonation. High Eb up, it required a much stronger embouchure to play the notes in tune. Hmmm. Most of the time it seems sharper than expected. Lipping down works but it seems to take a lot more air. Also, I felt that the notes did not seem full as the notes on the main stack. The AL4 seemed much more stable for intonation on the higher notes.

To combat this, I've temporarily moved up to a harder reed, a 2.75 from my regular 2.5. Experience on other pieces showed that a week or so on a harder reed strengthens my embouchure much faster, and when I come back to the softer reed I feel it is much easier to play.

Oh well back to tweaking sims...

Vibrato Sax!

Held one of these plastic saxophones when I visited the Sax shop on the way home. They are bloody light! And with old folk like me, light is good :D They're a tad expensive, but I'm hoping to get one when I'm visiting Singapore (they were invented, and made in Thailand).

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Tale of Four Mouthpieces

Disclaimer: I have been learning the saxophone about November 2010, and this post is in August 2011. As such, I'm reaally new to it.
Watermarks?! Yes, these are to deter any idiot scammers trying to list bogus auctions of mouthpieces with my photographs.

This beautiful classical piece above from Vandoren is the Optimum AL4. This is the mouthpiece that came with my saxophone, and is probably the reason why I took on so well with the sax - it's very well made, and possesses a good intonation and all. As it's a classical piece, the tone is geared more towards well... classical. And it's not exactly the kind of sound I am looking for. It actually works very well for mellow ballads.

Now this mouthpiece above is the E.Rousseu JDX 6. I'd watched a youtube video - that I can't seem to locate - and thought "Hey! I want to sound like that!!". As luck would have it, I found a used mouthpiece on ebay for half price. Initially, I loved it and thought that this would be *the* piece for me (go ahead, snicker ;-)). After about two weeks on this and many A-B sessions with the AL4, I found that I actually disliked the tone.

It is bright, and to my ears, somewhat "spread". What's more, I felt somewhat "restricted" in terms of the tone produced. After much back and forth, I went back to the AL4 and that was definitely the correct choice. Whilst the AL4 was  not as bright as the JDX6, I felt the tone produced has the colors I'd expect to hear.

This really sounds somewhat abstract, but I think you'd really need hear it to appreciate it.

The above is a Lebayle Studio 7 Metal. This, I bought at a whim off ebay at the same time I got the JDX - mainly as it was a good deal, and that some of my favourite players, Candy Dulfer and Kaori Kobayashi, to name two, use this mouthpiece. It is a 7 tip opening, and just takes too much air to blow at this time of my embouchure development.
The Studio 7 has a so-callled bullet chamber, and produces a very modern contemporary sound. This brings us to the next mouthpiece...

This is the baby I got just today - a Vandoren V16 A6S. These mouthpieces come in two chambers, the Small and Medium - Vandoren's website has small diagrams indicating the difference between the two, seems like the S chamber is a squeeze throat. I'd actually spent a fair bit of time trialing the following mouthpieces today:

  • Vandoren Optimum AL4 (my own)
  • E. Rousseau JDX 6 (my own)
  • Berg Larsen 80/2
  • Beechler "Diamond Inlay" 6
  • Vandoren V16 A5S, A6S and A5M
There were many other mouthpieces I'd like to try, e.g. Ponzol Vintage HR - but the sizes available were bigger than what I'd like to attempt at this moment.

First mouthpiece was the Beechler - my favourite final fantasy saxophone player, Muta1206 on youtube uses a metal beechler to great effect. My own experience with the Beechler 6 was, wow, nice bright tone. However, it felt like it had a lot of resistance and I went on to the Berg next.

I've read alot about Berg Larsen mouthpieces, and I was really hoping to test out the smaller tip e.g. 70 or 75 sizes, but the dude at the shop said to give it a go :) The /2 indicates the kind of baffle it has, and 2 is the baffle designed to give a more rounded kind of sound. In play, I loved it. Not too mellow, not too bright, and with enough edge. I had a hard time putting it down, but I did for two reasons. First, it a baffle. Like the JDX above, I was told this kind of pieces tended to produce a certain kind of tone, versus the pieces that lacked a baffle and allowed more of one's own "sound" to come through. Secondly, I had difficulty articulating certain notes. This seal it. Maybe I'd come back a year or two down the road and look at these pieces again. Although an 80 piece, it was actually quite an enjoyable blow.

Now the Vandorens were the pieces I spent the bulk of the time on; after spending two weeks on the JDX, I knew so much better about the kind of sound concepts I'd be working towards, which is more of the older school jazz type sound. The A5S certainly was very promising, it just felt like a brighter version of my AL4. The A5M OTOH I felt not as solid as the A5S, so I decided to go for the S chamber. I then decided to try out the A6S ;-)

The A6S was just right, not as bright as the A5S, more mellow, yet could get the edge when pushed. On the plus side, high F# seemed easier to produce. The A6S has two issues on it's side: it's a size 6 piece* which mean keeping correct intonation would be more challenging. Overtones were much more difficult, if not impossible to produce - went back to the AL4 and immediately got my overtone range back.

The tough choice between the two pieces, the A5S which did well for overtones, vs the A6S that sounded the way I'd prefer, but I'd need to work on intonation and overtones. Short while later, I walked away with the A6S.

I knew, with experience from the JDX6 that intonation issues can be worked and conquered. Overtones? Again, can be worked on ;-)

Well I can't wait to get into this new mouthpiece. The AL4 will probably stay on as a classical piece if I need to blend in with a band - not sure about the other two though. I've been told that mouthpieces that don't work now, could very well work years down the road. Let's see :)

Many forum threads go on about sticking with one mouthpiece for a year and not changing - and initially that was my plan - till I encountered that youtube vid ;-) In my experience, yes, perhaps about 8-9 months in, may be a good time to experiment with mouthpieces. That to this experience, I've noticed that I am much more critical of how saxophones sound in music - and much more appreciative of the old school professionals. Spending two weeks on the JDX was also like weight training - when I switched back to the AL4, my tone sounded much bigger, and I figured out how to change my embouchure so that I could sound more mellow or more edgy. Intonation also improved massively after the two week stint with the JDX6. I attribute it getting used to intonation with a larger tip opening, and going back to a smaller one felt easier.  I used to spend about 10 hours+ a week, but I'm trying to cut down now - maybe 5-8 hours a week.

*NB: sizes between manufacturers rarely match - a size 9 with one manufacturer could be 6 on another.